Academic journal article Military Review

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

Academic journal article Military Review

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

Article excerpt

WITH OUR BACKS TO THE WALL: Victory and Defeat in 1918

David Stevenson, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2011, 752 pages, $35.00

THE YEAR 1918 saw the collapse of empires, a gradually emerging new world order, and the end to the first "world war." The significance of 1918 is beyond debate. What may be debated is why the empires collapsed, why a new order emerged, and how and why the global conflict ended as it did. Answering these questions is the task that David Stevenson sets out for himself in With Our Backs to the Wall. His success in analyzing the complex factors that brought the "Great War" to an end on 11 November 1918 marks this book as a landmark in modern history.

The author's success rests on his mastery of the latest scholarship supplemented with archival work in at least three different languages. The effectiveness of Stevenson's argument is founded on the remarkable way he is able to weave com plex threads of causation together to show that war tested the endurance of societies as well as armies. After two chapters describing the ebb and flow on the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East, Stevenson examines the essential roles of such factors as technological innovation, shipping, industrial production, finance, home front morale, and political leadership. …

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